February 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Surge in U.S. auto sales drives demand for air shipments of parts

Sales of automobiles in the U.S., forecast to reach a seven-year high in 2014, are increasing demand for car parts by Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co., in turn boosting air shipments from the world’s largest parts makers.

Automotive sales in the U.S. will probably rise 2.6 percent to 16 million this year, according to Credit Suisse, after reaching 15.6 million cars and light trucks last year, the most since 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Hitachi Ltd. raised its profit forecast, citing higher sales in North America from its automotive-parts business.

U.S. auto-parts imports are helping increase cargo sales at ANA Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest airline, which carries auto parts in the bellies of passenger planes flying to North America, and boosting profit at Denso Corp., the world’s biggest diversified auto-parts maker by sales. Denso, based in Kariya, Japan, and Aisin Seiki Co., the world’s third-largest auto-parts maker, supply parts to GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC parent Fiat SpA, as well as Toyota and Honda Motor Co.

“It still makes sense for some car parts to be made at the mother factory in Japan for economies of scale,” said Masahiro Akita, an analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo. “When parts run short, high-valued added ones can be flown by plane to satisfy extra demand.”

Denso’s net income surged 73 percent to S2.2 billion for the nine months to Dec. 31.

Sales advanced 17 percent in the first nine months, paced by a 33 percent jump in North American sales, according to the company.

The parts maker produces sensors, computers and electronics, as well as air conditioners and powertrains for cars, according to its website. Magna International Inc. (MG) is the world’s second-largest diversified auto-parts maker, followed by Aisin Seiki, also based in Kariya, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The sales and operating income increased due to an increase in car production mainly in North America,” Kenichiro Ito, an executive director of Denso, said in a statement Feb. 3.

Motor vehicle parts exports by air from Japan jumped 20 percent last quarter, according to figures from Japan Customs, while sales of automobiles last year in the U.S., the biggest importer of car parts from Japan, surged to the most since 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, reported a 7.4 percent increase in annual sales in the U.S. last year, while Honda said sales rose 7.2 percent. Both set production records at their North American auto-assembly plants last year.

U.S. automakers also sold more vehicles in the country last year. GM’s sales were up 7.3 percent, Ford’s rose 10 percent and Chrysler added 9 percent compared with a year earlier. Total sales of vehicles in the U.S. increased 7.6 percent.

“The general policy is for Toyota to send parts by ship, but if it’s an emergency we will consider flying the parts,” said Dion Corbett, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Toyota. He declined to say what share of parts is sourced from Japan.

Tokyo-based Hitachi is also benefiting from increased demand for auto parts in the U.S. Japan’s second-largest manufacturer by employees on Feb. 4 raised its profit forecast for the year ending March 31 to 215 billion yen, compared with an earlier projection of 210 billion yen.